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on 15 March 2012
Based loosely upon a real life incident involving dog breeders in Saitama Prefecture, Cold Fish instead switches its focus to tropical fish sellers, following the meek and useless family man Shamoto (Mitsuru Fukikoshi), who runs a small shop whilst trying, and generally failing, to maintain his relationships with his second wife Taeko (Megumi Kagurazaka) and teenage daughter Mitsuko (Hikari Kajiwara). A chance encounter introduces him to fellow fish retailer Murata (Denden), who runs a far larger and more successful establishment, staffed by young girls and his strange wife. Though Murata seems friendly enough, if a little pushy, everything changes when Shamoto witnesses him brutally murdering an investor and is coerced into helping with the disposal of the corpse.

His previously ordered world is turned upside down as Murata pulls him into his life of excess and insanity, at the same time changing forever his role within his own stagnating family unit. This film is impossible to fit into any neat category. Its part horror, part black comedy (its extremely funny at times), part serial killer movie, with a huge dollop of allegory about business and Japanese society. And its also a hoot - brilliant acting and direction keeps you hooked as the film gets gorier and gorier.

The entire cast is compelling as a group of seemingly ordinary people who are teetering on either side of major personality disorders. And its not always clear who the real psychopaths are. Only the fish seem normal. Possibly the strangest thing about Cold Fish, and what marks it most decisively as another master work from Sono Sion is the fact that despite its incredible excess and abundance of madness, it remains highly philosophical, and in its own way is a deeply personal film, an internal horror show of insecurity exaggerated and thrown up on screen for all to see. Easily one of the best films of the last year, at least for fans of the director and those brave enough to enter his warped world, it stands as yet another classic from Sono, and as a truly original and unique piece of modern cinema.
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on 10 July 2011
Great movie based on a true story. Fantastic performances throughout, and great direction from Shion Sono. However be warned, this film is very brutal and disturbing in places and doesn't hold back with some of its violent scenes, especially against women.

The Blu-Ray picture is mostly decent, but does suffer during the night sequences.

Overall I recommend this movie - it is powerful, raw filmaking at its best.
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on 23 April 2014
Tsumetai Nettaigyo) (mild spoilers): a mild-mannered fish-shop owner crosses paths with a larger competitor who at first seems like an ideal business partner – but that veneer doesn’t last long. It feels like the director started out with two completely separate film ideas; the first 1-hour 45 contains a pretty credible, low-key, tense, but slow-burning con-man drama – with an off-kilter / black comedy undercurrent. The final act transforms the film into a full-blown slasher – which dwells on depraved sex, violence, gore and some body disposal scenes for a little longer than would be deemed comfortable (or necessary), peaking in a hyper-messy crimson-soaked blood ‘n’ guts finalé – shock cinema at it’s best; or perhaps worst!

This wouldn’t usually be a big deal, but at 2.5 hours you could have cut two (better, and) entirely different 90-minute movies out of it – an Evil Dead style gore-romp, or Coen-esque black comedy. There are glimpses of superb direction and storytelling, straight off the bat, but they end up getting lost in the bigger-picture. Acting is also solid (the runaway star being leading man Mitsuru Fukikoshi’s full-bodied transformation) – although, along with everything else, it all gets watered down and lost within the superfluous runtime. This would, by normal standards, be anything but an ordinary film – particularly because it’s littered with gropey and sensational sex scenes – but when you’re following up from an epic like Love Exposure, this feels lukewarm in comparison.

Score: 5/10 from ParagraphFilmReviews dot com
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on 21 September 2011
WARNING: Very mild SPOILERS...

This film, which I admit to watching in the wrong company first time around, is one of those, 'Wow, that was full on', pictures. Now, there isn't as much violence as you'd assume from the rating, unless you count the graphic depictions of bodies being hand chopped for disposal (it's not violence unless someones being hurt, right?). Though I will say the sex is stronger and occasionally more uncomfortable than I was expecting based on the ratings advice.
But now to film. Dark comedy about repression and personal fulfillment, submission and domination, basically. It's a psychological roller coaster unseen even in most Asia Extreme films. If you're familiar with any of director Sion Sono's work, you'll know he has a penchant for over-the-top-of-the-top visual styling and mis-en-scene. This is no different.
Here, the acting is spot on. The protagonist, so shy and encumbered by his own weak resolve, and the boisterous and bi-polar antagonist play so well against each other. The dialogue is so well managed it moves from funny to f'ed up, happy to angry and it takes you a few lines to even realise the whole mood has changed. Everyone, in front of and behind the screen, is kept on their toes for the duration.
I'm bumbling, and I'm sorry, this is a well made film. It is extreme. Over the top, but also very realistic. Asian cinema has that wonderful way of making extremes believable by first making you trust that the characters could be real people. There is meaning behind the madness. And yes, this one is oh so mad.
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on 8 August 2011
Original, brutal and probably not to everyone's taste. Based partly on true events it tells the tale of a weak, timid married man who becomes involved with another man who runs a 'bigger' and 'better' tropical fish shop. Unfortunately he is a brutal man who treats women like dirt and who makes men who get in his way 'invisible'. You are just waiting for the lead character to grow a backbone, as you know he must, and boy, when it happens it goes beyond what you probably expect. Yes there is a fair bit of gore and violence but it is not all against women - there are a few men involved too! A terrific film that somehow I think only Japan can come up with. Highly recommended but only to those who have a strong stomach. Definitely not for the faint-hearted.
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on 19 October 2011
After watching Love Exposure, I didn't think Sono Sion would ever come close to achieving what he achieved in that absolutely wonderful, perfect film. Then along came Cold Fish. There's not much to say that hasn't already been said, it's unflinching and totally enthralling. Mixed with the right amount of disturbing element with a tinge of jet black comedy, it delivers like a brick in the face for Sono fans. This film is brutal, holds no prisoners, balls out entertainment. It's grim, it's truly sexy, it's violent and it's damn near perfect.

Highly recommended.
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on 22 October 2013
Based on a true serial killing spree in japan the acting is superb and tension builds up quickly from a slow beginning.Certainly not for the fainthearted and holds no punches with the blood and gore and sex scenes.What sets it apart is the superb acting from all the cast not always evident in jap films.The extras are excellent as well some of the best I have seen if you are interested in horror films and jap crime.
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on 30 March 2015
Love Exposure (by the same director) is one of my favourites of all time and so I was hoping for another cinematic treat. Unfortunately, this did not even come close. In fact, I found myself angry by the end of it and this was because I found the sexual violence disturbing and did not buy into the plot twist and most of the characters seemed unreal to me. These things ruined it for me.

I wouldn't complain about the depiction of sexual violence if the film had more depth to it, but if there was any worthy point, then I totally missed it. My Japanese partner watched it with me and she told me she had been thinking that it might be offputting to some/many Westerners since they would not understand the aspects of Japanese culture which give this film different meanings. This was certainly part of the problem for me, but further to this, it was the fact that it seemed to try to be many things (black comedy, gory horror, thriller, psychological drama) but failed to bring them together well enough.
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on 18 August 2013
Cold fish -

A disturbing film from Japan with
a sense of crime thriller around it.
In the film there was gore and blood
but that is now part of many thriller type
films nowadays, it provided an emphasis
to the story.

I considered 4 star for Cold Fish because
its an out of the ordinary film with a great
cast.
A definitive film for those late night's
with tons of pop corn.
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on 18 October 2013
Keeping this review short and to the point, this film is a masterpiece. Although it takes a while for the gore to show, stick with it. Add every single 'video nasty' together and I promise you that this film has more gore in it than all of those movies combined. So, if you like gore, buy this film. It's a masterpiece of its kind.

Karl Steiger
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